Being born in Miami’s Mercy Hospital overlooking Biscayne Bay may have given the Foley siblings an affinity for the water. But years later, a two-week summer camp at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo stimulated their interest in sailing and, soon after, competing.
“I love the competitiveness of sailing,” says Peter, 18, who is lauded for his intellect, precision, strategy, speed, and tactics on the water. “I am a natural. I build off of talent, and I love sailing. When it’s cold and windy, I go out.”
His younger sister Audrey, 15, is fearless on windy seas and shares the same passion as her brother. “Sailing makes me feel independent, and competing allows me to focus all of my interests at once,” she says. “People are amazed that I am young and brave and sail in gnarly winds and storms. But I love it!”
Today, the Stuart-based Pine School students spend as much time as possible sailing around the world as a team tackling competitive events. They often race together as members of the United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA); since 2015, they have qualified as members and competed all over the world, including places like Spain, Belgium, and Bermuda.
The Foley siblings have attended more than 75 regattas in 30 countries on five continents and have also won a few championships, including the 2019 C420 Junior Olympic Sailing Festival in Jensen Beach and Peter’s first-place win in the 2018 International Optimist Regatta in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. They somehow manage to balance their sailing competitions with various high school activities. “We intend to keep improving our sailing, doing schoolwork, and entering competitions when we are on break,” says Peter, who notes that they finished sixth in the i420 North American Championship Regatta in Miami last year and, this past July, competed in the 420 World Championships in San Remo, Italy, for the very first time.
The first-generation sailors have lived all over Florida and in Chicago. Two years ago, after their father, a financial adviser, opened an office in Palm Beach Gardens, the family—including their mom, who manages their sailing careers—bought a home in Stuart. Not far from their dad’s work, it is also close to the U.S. Sailing Center of Martin County in Jensen Beach. “We both like the peacefulness of Martin County, and in addition to the Sailing Center competitions, we sail our family’s armada of boats around here,” says Peter.
Over the years, the duo has sailed boats like the I420, C420, HS420, Snipe, Laser, 29er, RS Feva, RS Venture, Hobie Cat, and Sunfish. They have also trained a great deal on the family’s 8-foot Optimist.
While they claim to get along 95 percent of the time, there are natural spills and chills during the excitement of competition. “If one of us fails to do something [right], we get upset with each other,” says Peter. “It’s hard not to fight, but we’re always civil.” Audrey agrees: “Things happen so fast when we’re sailing, it’s tough to keep up the pace. But when we are out there, we are partners.”
The Foleys are considered by their peers to be among the best youth sailors in North America. They started their careers as preteens, sailing in the big U.S. regattas like Newport, Rhode Island; Marina del Rey, California; and Lake Forest, Illinois. From there, they tackled international waters, where they were immersed in new cultures and met diverse people who have since become friends. “Traveling has given us new perspectives and experiences,” says Audrey, who headed to Ireland in August to race in the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) Youth World Championships after finishing up the Worlds in Italy. “We have bonded with so many different people around the world. I see them every year and now realize that the world is a small place.”
Locally, both Foleys will continue to participate in varsity sailing as part of their Pine School activities. Peter won Pine’s Male Athlete of the Year Award for 2020-2021 (he also plays tennis, golf, and basketball). Audrey, who likes to play golf and paint when she’s not sailing, was honored at Pine with a 2021 Sportsmanship Award.
In coming months, the siblings will continue pursuing their passion for competitive sailing. Wherever their dreams may take them, both intend to utilize the memories they make along the way to become better human beings. As Peter so beautifully puts it: “The lessons I have learned in sailing will continue to guide me to be the best person I can.”